By Maribeth Kuzmeski
Would you rather crunch numbers than mingle at a cocktail party? Are you more comfortable in a lab or library than you are at lunch with your coworkers? When you present a new product or explain a problem to coworkers or leaders, do you have trouble holding their attention because of your slower-paced, more deliberate speaking style? If so, you might be suffering from the curse of the introvert. Sure, you’re über-intelligent and have great ideas, but you’re either too reserved to share them or you prefer less attention-grabbing methods for communicating them than is the case with your extroverted coworkers.
In today’s tough economy, it’s no longer enough to be a genius with great ideas. To get ahead, you have to be able to communicate them effectively and use them to influence others. You have to be able to connect!
“That sounds great,” you might be thinking. “But I’m not exactly dripping with charisma. I’m not sure I have the social skills I’d need to do all of that!”
Not to worry. With the right tools, strategies, and tactics, you can change the way you develop relationships and forge a network of colleagues and contacts who will stick with you through thick and thin—and best of all, voluntarily recommend your great work to others.
Read on for some straightforward, easy-to-apply tips that will garner immediate results.
Make the right connections—even if you’re not a “people person.” Anyone can become an effective connector. If you love to meet new people and enjoy being the center of attention, that’s great. If not—that’s okay, too. Connecting is actually less about being gregarious and more about your awareness of the relationships you are forming. To maximize the value of your interactions, start by figuring out to whom you’re relating, and how you’re doing it.
Consider categories like clients and vendors, coworkers and leaders, or specific individuals within categories. Then jot down some ideas for reaching out to each of these people.
Set yourself up for connecting success. If you’re an introvert, create situations in which it is easier for you to connect. For example, most introverts like to think things through before they speak and tend to engage well with people one-on-one. So the next time you want to build a relationship with a client or coworker, meet during a one-on-one lunch rather than in a big group.
When you put yourself in an environment in which you know you will be able to more easily connect, you will be able to forge deep relationships.
Improve your social IQ. Always be mindful of the fact that your words and actions have a powerful effect on others. The people with whom you interact will unconsciously and instinctively mirror your emotions. That’s why it’s so important to improve your social IQ. Once you’ve pinpointed the areas in which you need to improve, rehearse mentally. Anticipate how people might react to what you say. Rehearse conversations in advance. Develop a vision for yourself and how you’d like to change.
Remember, it’s not about you. When people know that they matter to you, their attitudes toward you change. Their respect for you grows, they’ll work harder, and they’ll be aligned with your goals.
It’s amazing how far a welcoming demeanor, empathy, and authenticity can take you. People all around you want desperately to know that they matter. If you’re ready and willing to stand with them and help meet their needs, they’ll return the favor. That’s the true path to greatness: It lives not in you, but through you.
Don’t just network. Work your network. Many people have the best of intentions when making a new business acquaintance, but they just haven’t acquired the proper strategies for truly keeping in touch. Yes, the prospect of staying connected to all 1,000-some folks in your LinkedIn network seems daunting. But if you break it down to reaching out to 20 or so people a week, the task is much more manageable. Be diligent! The hardest part about keeping in contact is doing so consistently. Remember, the rewards are worth it. Your contacts will remember your name and will appreciate your efforts!
Don’t just hear—listen. Because so few people truly practice the art of listening, it’s the most effective way to make lasting connections with others. Being a good listener sets you apart! It makes you very likeable because others will feel comfortable and valuable when they’re with you. Cultivating this skill will bring you satisfied customers, content employees, and trusting supervisors.
Make emotional connections. When getting to know a client or coworker, try to understand where that person is coming from as completely as you can. I call this technique asking “heart questions.” For example, if you are a financial advisor, instead of simply presenting a numbers-based plan, you might first ask questions about your prospect’s family. By connecting emotionally with people, you open up a line of trust that causes them to want to work with you.
Be referable(and if you’re not, find out why). If you’re not currently receiving the amount of referrals or positive feedback you’d like, don’t assume that you’re not referable. Chances are, there is simply a disconnect between you and your clients or customers. Develop a “Client Delight Survey” that covers every detail of the client’s experience. It sounds simple, but if you take the feedback you receive from the survey to heart, you’ll gain awareness of directions you can take for increasing referrals and positive feedback from clients.
Connecting takes time, it takes effort, and it means putting others before yourself. For introverts, it can be a more difficult task than for their more talkative counterparts, but once you begin truly connecting with others, you won’t regret it. Your relationships will be more prolific and rewarding, and you will be more successful. Don’t let yourself settle for a position on the fringes when you could dwell at the epicenter of productivity and success…even now!
To continue to learn how introverts can succeed in the workforce, sign up for our webinar on how to become a successful manager as an introvert.
About the Author(s)
Maribeth Kuzmeski Maribeth Kuzmeski, MBA, is author of The Connectors: How the World’s Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life (Wiley, 2009) Kuzmeski is the founder of Red Zone Marketing, LLC, which consults with Fortune 500 firms on strategic marketing planning and business growth. For more information, visit: www.redzonemarketing.com or www.theconnectorsbook.com